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Ristolainen among four No. 1 picks the last two years hitting ice in Sabres' exhibition opener tonight

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres open the exhibition schedule tonight in Montreal and it will mark the debut of Ron Rolston's new-look coaching staff, as John Vogl wrote about in today's paper. As we learned during today's morning skate, the game is also quite a nod to the team's scouting and development staff as all four No. 1 picks from the last two years (Mikhail Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nakita Zadorov) will get a chance to take the Bell Centre ice.

Quite a statement indeed.

"Absolutely it is," Rolston said in First Niagara Center prior to the flight to Montreal. "Our goal right now in training camp is there's going to be a lot of opportunity for those players. They're going to get a lot of time here in the exhibitions. They're important to where we're headed and we've got a lot of faith in those guys. So it's going to be important to watch them grow even through this exhibition schedule."

Ristolainen, the No. 8 overall pick in June, will be paired tonight with Mike Weber.

"I'm so excited," said Ristolainen. "I've been waiting a lot to play a game and it's nice to play in Montreal. I've heard it's one of the best rinks in this league and so are the fans, so I'm excited. There's a lot of guys getting chances. I know this is one of my chances. I want to do everything tonight to show my skills."

"He's a solid kid, solid player," Weber said. "He's a man. An 18-year-old man. He's a big boy, skates pretty well, moves the puck really well. He's smart. It's exciting for Sabres fans to have a big guy like that come in and we get to see how he looks against other men. But he's already been playing in a professional league (in Finland). His strength is there so it's all about playing against these guys. The NHL is the best guys in the world."

At 25 and with three full NHL seasons on his resume, Weber counts as a veteran on this club and he said he's impressed with the cadre of young talent in camp.

"What we've done with collecting picks and making selections of quality people and quality players will really pay off," he said. "There's a chance all four of those guys play in the NHL this year, at least at different points in the season. It's exciting for the organization, scouting staff and management."

Tonight's game is at 7:30 on WGR Radio 550. There is no local television (I'll be looking for an RDS TV feed online). The Sabres will be splitting the goaltending between Jhonas Enroth and Matt Hackett while the Habs will go with Peter Budaj and Zach Fucale, the top goaltender taken in the draft.

The Sabres lines will be Ott-Grigorenko-Leino, Girgensons-Larsson-Stafford. Adam-Porter-Flynn. Gillies-McCormick-Kaleta. The defense pairs will be Tallinder-Pysyk. Weber-Ristolainen. Zadorov-McBain.

Big names not dressing for Buffalo tonight include Ryan Miller, Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Thomas Vanek, Tyler Ennis, Cody Hodgson, Marcus Foligno. 

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Rasmus Ristolainen | Sabres game day
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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | [email protected]

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | [email protected]


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | [email protected]

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